An Interview with performer
Michael van Beek (also known as Michael Evolution) is a world-class basketball freestyle juggler that amazed millions of people in his career. With 2 decades of live stage experience, Michael has earned his marks in the performing art industry! He became the 1st basketball freestyle juggler that brought excitement into the world of theatre, variety & circus with his artistic creativity, showmanship and captivating skillset.
Where are you from, and how did you first connect with Teatro Zinzanni?
I’m from the Netherlands; in November 2021 I was part of the Moisture Auction Fall event in Seattle that was broadcast through a live stream. Jane Langill (Associate Producer of Teatro ZinZanni) was watching the live stream; she was amazed and instantly thought I would be a great fit for Teatro ZinZanni in Chicago.
She quickly briefed Norm Langill (CEO & Artistic Director of Teatro ZinZanni) and the next day when I flew back to Las Vegas, I received an email from Norm asking if I would be interested and available to be part of Teatro ZinZanni Chicago in January 2022. After that, everything went pretty fast and a few months later, I made my debut in Teatro ZinZanni as well as performing in a Spiegeltent!
How long have you been performing? How did you get started?
I’ve been performing for nearly 23 years. I started playing soccer when I was 6 years old until the age of 13. Then I saw the movie White Men Can’t Jump with Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson & Rosie Perez. The moment this movie started and I saw Wesley Snipes doing those low dribbles between the legs, I asked my mom to buy me a basketball. I went outside to the nearest basketball court and started dribbling and shooting. Few months later, I signed up at the basketball club in my town to learn more and play competition. I became a talented ball player! Not long after I noticed the Nike commercial ‘Freestyle’ by Afrikaa Bambataa, where iconic NBA players were featured and this trick baller Luis da Silva that was showing crazy basketball tricks! I was amazed and wanted to do those basketball tricks too. Before you know it, I was already in my room practicing, rolling the ball from arm to chest to arm or spin the ball on my finger.
During a basketball school tournament, there was a basketball showteam called W.O.T.S (Word On The Street) led by the founder Angelo Bromet. The team was performing at the center court and at some point they needed two participants for a little 1 on 1 – I got picked! I pretty much made my opponent look lost, won the match, and everyone was loving it. Long story short, I was noticed by Angelo and he recruited me to be part of the basketball showteam! Angelo gave me the nickname Evolution (That explains Michael Evolution) because I was rapidly evolving my basketball tricks.
For six years, I performed with the team all over Europe. After graduating in 2005 in Finance & Insurance (Wait what?!? I know right!), I had the opportunity to audition for a new Urban/Street theatre show called BALLS in 2006 with the company ISH (Now called ISH Dance Collective) led by Marco Gerrish. As my first time in a full show, I was basically a rookie doing a single basketball trick. Marco liked what I was capable of with the basketball but mostly he believed in my potential for growth. We had mandatory classes with professionals from acting, dancing, breakdance, and sometimes disciplines that were still in the making back then, such as Parkour and Freerunning. Ever since my first show in 2006, I’ve built my way up in the performing art industry in prominent circus/variety dinner shows. My journey was not easy at all as a nontraditional but mostly unknown discipline! I never gave up as I visualized the potential where it could lead to and here I am 23 years later, still going strong and loving every frame that I’ve worked very hard to establish.
What are some of your favorite places in Chicago?
My favorite places are food spots in Chicago. I love to go to Ramen-San on Hubbard St (Great vibes, great music!) and recently my wife found an amazing dumpling restaurant called Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings on S Wentworth Ave! The Cheesecake Factory never gets old on N Michigan Ave! Good food makes me happy!
When you’re not performing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the US. I like to spend my free time simply by walking in the city or the river walk and just exploring. It feels great to clear your mind when you perform on a daily basis and get you all freshened up!
How do you think the Teatro ZinZanni show experience differs from other productions or shows you’ve been part of?
From an audience perspective, they will not just sit and watch the show. They become part of the show, able to have chats with the performers, be amazed by witnessing the acts from a very close range, feel loved and appreciated alongside with, laughter, interactions taking place, an appetizer + 3 course meal, fantastic signature drinks led by a great service team and a fabulous band that plays live throughout the entire show!
I love the Teatro ZinZanni show experience because every show is always different with the patrons. Having the freedom to try improvisations with my colleagues in character, to create smiles and laughter is a wonderful thing to do. That’s not a very common thing to be able to do throughout an entire show.
If you had to describe your act in three words – what would they be?
Joyful, Groovy & Energetic and if I may add a fourth word, that word would be Sincere
What’s your favorite part of performing with Teatro ZinZanni?
My favorite part of performing with Teatro Zinzanni is being dressed in one of a kind costumes created by the wonderful Debra M. Bauer!
What does your act Soul Makossa mean?
I simply love to express the definition of Soul Makossa that fits my performance well;
“Soul Makossa” is an iconic single by Cameroonian saxophonist and composer Manu Dibango. The song, which was released in 1972, is widely regarded as a seminal work in the development of world music and has been covered by countless artists in various genres. Its infectious beat and distinctive melody have ensured its enduring popularity.
The title of the song, “Soul Makossa,” is a combination of two words from the Duala language of Cameroon. “Soul” means “hello” or “greetings,” while “makossa” is a type of dance that originated in the city of Douala.
The lyrics of the song are in the Duala language, and they reflect a sense of pride and celebration in African culture. The opening lines of the song, “Mamasay mamasa mamakusa,” are said to be a traditional African chant that means “I will dance, you will dance, we will dance together.”
The song celebrates the joy of dancing and coming together, and it has become an anthem for African unity and pride. The catchy melody and infectious beat have made it a staple of disco and dance parties around the world.
“Soul Makossa” has had a profound impact on world music and has been covered by countless artists in various genres. Michael Jackson famously borrowed the melody for his hit song “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” and other artists such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Jay-Z have also referenced or sampled the song.
The success of “Soul Makossa” has also helped to pave the way for other African artists and genres to gain recognition in the global music scene. It remains a beloved and influential work, and Manu Dibango is widely regarded as a pioneer in the fusion of African and Western musical styles.
Manu Dibango is a Cameroonian saxophonist and composer who was born in 1933. He is considered one of the pioneers of African jazz and has had a profound impact on world music.
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